By Samindra Kunti
September 5 – The Reggae Girlz have had enough. In a payment dispute with the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), the Jamaican national women’s team say they will refuse to train or play until the players receive what the JFF owns them.
“We are going out on strike,” Jamaica player Chinyelu Asher told Insideworldfooball. “This year is the first time ever that we have gotten a contract. Even last year, when we qualified for the World Cup, we weren’t contracted. The historic moment of contracting your first women’s program was widely paraded and used for the clout of the federation. We are 8-9 months behind. Basically nothing really happened.”
In May, ahead of the World Cup finals, the Jamaican players signed a contract with the JFF that ran until the end of August and entitled the Jamaican players to a salary, including backpay to January, but in a social media campaign ‘Nopaynoplay’, led by star player Khadija Saw, the Reggae Girlz have come out to demand that the JFF fulfills its contractual obligations. The team’s players does not rule out boycotting September’s Olympic qualifiers to make its point.
“That is a really unfortunate possibility, but we are sticking to it and we are not going to settle for anything less,” said Asher, who plies her trade in Norway. “We have been doing nothing but settling for less.”
After the World Cup, the JFF sent notices to the players acknowledging that they were late with their payments, which were due every month. At the end of August, the Federation wired 50% of the money owed to the players, arguing that it can’t pay out in full yet because the governing body is waiting for the World Cup’s prize money from world federation FIFA. The JFF received a qualifying bonus of $480,000 in preparation for the tournament. All of the 24 finalists were entitled to a minimum of $750,000 in prize money and bonuses from FIFA.
Asher has dismissed the argument, saying that the contract didn’t tie the monthly payments to FIFA’s prize money. “It was in writing to us that we ‘d receive our full payments monthly and so 50% isn’t acceptable,” says Asher.
At this summer’s Women’s World Cup in France Jamaica provided the cool factor. They captured the public’s imagination, debuting at the finals as the first Carribean country after overcoming a slate of organizational and financial problems with the backing of Bob Marley’s granddaughter Cedella. Jamaica debuted against Brazil with a 3-1 defeat and ultimately finished bottom of a group that also included Italy and Australia.
In the build-up to and during the finals, the team’s struggles received global media attention. The Jamaica international still reflects on the journey with a sense of disbelief. “Getting out of our Concacaf region is very competitive, because we are up against the USA, Canada, Mexico and Costa Rica, some big names on the international stage,” recalls Asher. “Again, we weren’t contracted. We weren’t paid. Our coaches have to come out of pocket for a lot of things, and we didn’t really have any really support from the federation until we started to gain traction with our performances.”
The Reggae Girlz had come a long way to qualify for France. The JFF disbanded the team after Jamaica failed to qualify for the 2008 Olympic women’s football tournament and the team was only reinstated in 2014.
“We had to balance our objective which was performing the best that we could in the World Cup, or getting to the WC, but also trying to find the balance what are we allowing ourselves to put up with even though we don’t have any sponsorships. We have to pay for ourselves. We are a young team. Most of us are in college or we don’t have an income like that.”
Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1708919808labto1708919808ofdlr1708919808owedi1708919808sni@o1708919808fni1708919808